Olympics: White House walks back statement that Team USA may not compete

By Alex Butler  |  Dec. 7, 2017 at 3:17 PM
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Dec. 7 (UPI) -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there has been "no official decision made" on if the United States will take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Sanders made the comments on Thursday during an on-camera press briefing, casting doubt on whether Americans would compete at the Olympics. Soon after, Sanders walked back that statement on Twitter, saying the U.S. "looks forward" to the Games.

"UPDATE: The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea," Sanders tweeted. "The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.

Sanders' speculation on U.S. participation in the Winter Olympics, scheduled to begin Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, followed similar doubt shared by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

On Wednesday, Haley told Fox News that it was an "open question" if the United States would participate in the games.

"There is an open question," Haley said. "I have not heard anything about that. But I do know, in the talks that we have, whether it's Jerusalem, whether it's North Korea, it's always about how to we protect the U.S. citizens in the area. So those are conversations that are happening daily."

Sanders said nothing is "official," when addressing Haley's comments on Thursday.

"Look, that wasn't exactly what the ambassador said. No official decision has been made on that," Sanders told reporters. "We will keep you guys posted as those decisions are made. Look, I know that the goal is to do so, but that will be a decision made closer to the time. I think that's an interagency process but I think, ultimately, the President would certainly weight in. But again, that's something that he would take into account...probably a number of the stakeholders that would be involved."

Despite government officials' speculation that the U.S. national team may not participate, U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Jones told the Washington Post that his organization is planning on attending the Games.

"We have not had any discussions, either internally or with our government partners, about the possibility of not taking teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games," he said.

The International Olympic Committee banned the entire Russian Olympic team from the games earlier this week over a doping scandal. The ruling came after a yearlong investigation into Russian athletes.

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